Friday, April 21, 2017
Spring grass mowing season is here, and it is a good time to remember some best practices for mowing your lawn and keeping it looking great.
Proper mowing height is extremely important. The general rule of thumb is to only remove about one-third of the grass height. Mowing at a taller height, more frequently, helps grass plants stay healthy for the long-term and grow healthy root systems ready for supporting plants during period of stress. The recommended grass height after spring mowing is usually two inches to three inches, but may be more or less, depending on the type of grass. Consult your local garden center or a university extension guide to make sure you are mowing at the proper height.
Grass clippings are best left to decompose in the yard, providing natural nutrients and organic matter for a healthy lawn. But collecting some grass clippings in the spring can prevent excessive mulch buildup. A grass collection system, like the Cyclone Rake, can help you collect lawn trimmings to compost, especially during spring periods of heavy grass growth.
The type of mower that you use is largely a matter of personal preference and budget. Lawn tractors and other self-propelled mowers are a good fit for larger lawns. Walk-behind, or “push”mowers, are a great fit for smaller lawns and provide the operator with some additional exercise.
Walk-behind mowers can also be a useful tool on damp spots in larger lawns in the spring. While mowing when grass is wet is never recommended – this can promote the spread of disease – spring rains can make the ground spongy and more likely to be compacted from a heavier lawn tractor. Low-lying or poorly drained spots can be mowed with a walk-behind mower to reduce compaction. Remember to keep the lawnmower blades sharp, no matter what kind of mower you use; a good sharpening every month or so is usually recommended.
Keeping the grass at a longer, healthy height can also help you put lines or “stripes” in your yard. A simple way to make back-and-forth stripes is simply to mow in straight lines, mowing each pass in the opposite direction of the last one. A lawn roller or striping kit for your lawnmower can also help create this look. A checkerboard appearance can be created by rolling in the opposite direction which you’ve mown. Try creating your own “checkerboard” by simply alternating the direction you mow with each cutting. While not as dramatic an effect as that done with a roller or kits, you’ll get a nice appearance and keep the grass healthier by not mowing in the same direction all the time.
Friday, April 14, 2017
Winter can be hard on your yard. Snow and cold, wet weather can create conditions for turf disease. Damage from winter traffic and, especially in urban areas, materials used to treat roads can also create dead patches in nearby yards. Critters like voles can also create winter damage. By following widely recommended growing practices, and giving those dead spots some careful care, you can patch those spots this spring.
Many turfgrasses are cool-season grasses, meaning they are ideally established in the
fall. But spring patching
for winter dead spots is very possible. If you do decide to patch spots this
spring, pay special attention to the soil. Dead spots could be the result of
disease or cold-weather kill; but poor soil fertility and drainage can also
make it tough for grass to thrive. Thoroughly work up the soil before seeding,
when the soil is not too wet, adding plenty of organic matter, like compost.
Compost adds structure to the soil and acts as a slow-release fertilizer,
providing turf with necessary nutrients. Spreading about an inch of compost
across existing turf also can also provide soil-building benefits.
|Compost acts as a slow-release|
fertilizer for your turf.
Newly seeded turf needs to be kept moist, but not soggy – a challenge during periods of heavy spring rains. Heavy rains can wash soil away from seeds; try using burlap, or synthetic materials available at most garden centers, which may be placed over grass seeding on dead spots to manage erosion. These covers also can prevent intrusion and seed-snatching by birds and other hungry critters. One benefit to spring seeding: there are usually plenty of other things for critters to munch in the spring, making your new lawn seeding a less attractive option in the spring smorgasbord for wildlife.
Thursday, January 19, 2017
Trees bring unbelievable beauty to the southern U.S. Pines, oaks, hickory, black walnut and other hardwoods are prominent native trees of southern forests and landscapes. And baldcypress, sycamore, willow, blackgum and many other distinctive southern trees characterize the coastal lowlands. These southern giants add great beauty to the home landscape, too – and can also create plenty of debris for cleanup in the yard.
Pine needles and pine cones carpet many southern forests – and picking up pine cones and raking pine straw (needles) are standard cleanup chores in many southern yards. Longleaf pine needles are a main source of pine straw used in landscaping. Prickly pine cones, from pine trees including loblolly pine, pitch pine, sand pine and shortleaf pine, also create ground debris. Other pines – like Eastern white pine and Virginia pine – may not have cones that are as prickly, but still require cleanup of both pine cones and needles.
|Sycamore leaf ready to fall.|
Southern deciduous hardwood trees also drop plenty of debris. Oaks lose leaves and acorns in the fall. Nut hulls and nutshells from other hardwoods, like black walnut and hickory, can remain near trees long into the next summer. Leaves, seeds, twigs, seedpods, and other debris from other southern trees also create plenty of debris: cottonwood, maple, coral bean, locust, mimosa and sycamore. Fruit and berries not snatched up by birds – from trees like hackberry, sugarberry and beautyberry – can also remain in the yard. And some distinctive Southern trees, like catalpa and Kentucky coffee bean, drop unique seedpods needing to be cleaned up annually.
Southern homeowners are accustomed to the chores required to maintaining the beauty of their yardscapes. These tasks include picking up pine cones; raking pine straw; raking and blowing oak leaves and acorns; and raking and removing twigs, pods and other tree debris, from fall through spring. The Cyclone Rake lawn vacuum, which attaches to a riding lawnmower, is also a possible solution for saving time in caring for southern lawns and landscapes. It can make tree debris cleanup much less time-consuming, giving homeowners in the South more time and energy to tend flowers, shrubs, fruit and vegetables – or to simply sit back with a cold drink and enjoy the beauty of southern trees.
Friday, January 6, 2017
Lawns and gardens grow longer in the South, where milder winters may mean more time to clean up leaves and yard debris. Here are some best practices for cleaning up leaves and lawn debris in the South - whether you’re catching up on raking, cleaning up debris from pruning or a winter storm, or just thinning out pine needles from under your trees.
Large leaf rakes make cleaning up small and mid-sized yards easy. Raking is also a great way to get some winter exercise and enjoy being in the colder season. Many
homeowners shred small
piles of leaves, using a lawnmower or chipper/shredder, to make mulch.
Shredding also makes composting leaves easier. Composting is a great practice
that can help make your yard neater, and shredded leaves are a useful
ingredient for compost, when mixed with other organic wastes in the compost
pile or compost bin.
|Brilliantly colored tree in Alabama|
Large yards with more deciduous trees, as well as yards with mature pines and other evergreens, can see even more leaves and pine needles.
Rakes and leaf blowers are useful for cleaning up
larger yards. A Cyclone Rake leaf vacuum, which attaches to a riding lawnmower,
makes cleaning up leaves and pine needles easier and less time-consuming. The
Cyclone Rake and its attachments can also be used for year-round yard cleanup
|Long Needle Pine Tree in North Carolina|
Homeowners in the South can take a two-step approach when dealing with small tree branches, as well as disease-free shrub clippings and prunings. Branches and prunings can be first gathered into neat piles – or left just out of sight, behind the trees or shrubs where they are pruned. After some time has passed, leaves will fall off or can be easily shaken off, making it easier to move the stems and branches. The leaves can then be tidily raked into mulch around the plants, used as mulch elsewhere, or added to the compost pile. Branches can be shredded or added to a brush pile for birds and wildlife to enjoy the rest of winter.
Reviewed (mentions leaving branches behind pruned plants):
U of Florida, “Recycle Yard Waste” http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/handbook/Recycle_Yard_Waste_vSept09.pdf
Friday, December 30, 2016
It’s the start of a new year, and the middle of winter, meaning lawn care may seem far from your mind. But it’s never too soon to make sure your lawn and garden tools and supplies are ready to go for spring - and resolving to keep your yard tools well-maintained is a New Year’s resolution that may prove possible to keep. Start this year out right, with some time in your garage, storage shed or barn, making sure maintenance is up-to-date for all the tools you’ll need this spring – or finishing routine maintenance that may have slipped by before the holidays.
Pay special attention to all the engines in your care: lawnmowers, lawn tractors,Cyclone SuperHauler. Late fall and winter is a good time for replacing spark plugs and changing oil, if you forgot that task after the lawn care season. Use fluids according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, always storing fluids in approved containers and disposing used oil properly. Inspect and clean or replace filters as needed. Be sure mower decks are clean and blades are sharp, ready for the first grass cutting in the spring. If you send your lawn tractor to a mechanic for an annual tune-up, make that appointment now and beat the spring rush.
Then, take time to inspect and maintain the moving parts on your tools – including tools without an engine. Many machines, from lawnmowers to lawn shears, have moving parts needing only an occasional application of grease or oil. Apply lubricants as needed, being sure to follow the guidelines in owner’s manuals. If you forgot to give a final fall cleaning for lawn equipment in storage, like the Cyclone Rake and other tools, take some time to be sure they are cleaned and stored properly. Inspect all the tires and wheels on your tools for excessive or unusual wear, which may signal a need for replacement or additional maintenance. It’s not too late to apply a coat of linseed oil to condition and preserve wooden tool handles, in case you overlooked that task in the fall.
Yard care supplies also include things without moving parts, like fertilizer and seed and other soil amendments. Always store fertilizers and seeds in a dry location; keep grass seed left from last year in a cool place, like a basement, where the seed will not freeze. And use these winter months to take stock of your supplies, making a list for supplies needed closer to spring. That will help you meet the aim of your New Year’s resolution for maintaining lawn equipment and supplies: a truly beautiful, healthy lawn and garden.
Friday, December 23, 2016
A snowy landscape creates a seasonal wonderland around in your yard and woods. Snow in your driveway, however, begs for removal. Here are some ways you and your family can stay active this winter while putting that snow to good use, as well as how to avoid snow-related lawn headaches in the spring.
Before you break out the shovel, snow blower or tractor, consider your kids. They are likely just itching to play in some snow, and the snow in your driveway may be the perfect raw material for building the family of snowmen or the stockade of snow forts. Rolling up snowballs for building snowmen, by using snow from the driveway, can also keep the yard covered with snow. This both looks nice and can help insulate your grass and plants when temperatures take the next arctic plunge.
Your biggest challenge may be keeping the kids from suspecting that they’re really part of your Driveway Cleanup Operation. So be sure to stay out there, with your shovel or snow blower, aiding their efforts to harvest snow from the driveway. This will keep up morale and keep your whole family staying active in the winter outdoors. It may also help you keep big piles of snow from being deposited in the middle of the yard. Slow-melting snow piles in the lawn can promote turf diseases, like snow mold, in the spring. Also keep this in mind if sledding starts to happen in the middle of your yard, as heavily-packed snow can bring similar spring challenges.
Of course, there are always tradeoffs: What’s a little snow mold in the spring, really, when the kids are having so much fun outside? If you are looking to preserve certain parts of the yard, suggest the youngsters place their snow forts and other winter building projects in the woods, where grass conditions may not be of such great concern. And don’t forget to help them deposit snow on the fort, or at the building site. That may also keep away later accusations that they have actually been part of your driveway cleanup plans (Maybe).
Friday, December 16, 2016
A seasonal song calls for decking the halls, for ‘tis the season to be jolly. But in the midst of a traditionally busy season in homes and workplaces, decorating your home might create less than jolliness. Here are some possible helps, whether you’re setting up a last minute Christmas tree, preparing for Hanukkah gatherings or accenting décor for Kwanzaa.
Don’t be daunted by the number of shopping days left; there’s still plenty of time to put up a Christmas tree. A few stalwart celebrants even practice the historic tradition of trimming the tree on Christmas Eve! Consider a trip to a local Christmas tree farm, if you are still in the market for a natural Christmas tree, to bring home a fresh tree that can be left up for a while. Freshness can be detected in pre-cut trees by giving them a good shaking; if lots of green needles start flying, the tree’s freshness may be suspect.
Hosting Hanukkah gatherings will bring plenty of people to your home. If you haven’t yet stocked the pantry for the meal, be sure you soon acquire any ingredients you know you’ll need but don’t always keep on hand. For decorating, simple accents can highlight Hanukkah themes and plenty of home décor items are available for purchase. But consider taking some time to create your own front door treatment and other accents, using ideas gleaned from social media outlets. A quick look at Pinterest showed plenty of distinctive Hanukkah decorations that are also simple enough for children to help craft, so consider these kinds of ideas to get youngsters involved before lights, games and gifts.
Traditional Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations involve candle lighting. If this is the first year you’ll host a gathering, be sure to think through that part of the evening with all the necessary luminary supplies. For holiday menus, different traditions may observe different preferences. If you’re thinking this is the year to offer some new holiday fare, be sure to consider any of your guest’s special dietary considerations, whether seasonal or otherwise.